Noble's 'Appeal': IV. The Last Judgment.:
A. The Last Judgment of the Scriptures was not to be accomplished in the Natural World.
I now have to appeal to you, my Reflecting Readers, upon the subject of the Last Judgment. The views which we believe to be those of the New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse in regard to this great consummation, differ considerably, it is true, from those commonly entertained: and they also are such as, when first propounded, universally excite no small degree of surprise: yet their truth appears to be by no means difficult of proof; and I trust that it has already, in some degree, become apparent.
Respecting the General Judgment our distinguishing opinions are these two: first, That, according to the Scriptures, the scene of the last judgment was to be, not in the natural world, as commonly believed, but in the spiritual: and, secondly, That it has there been accomplished accordingly. Of these two propositions, the first may already have been sufficiently proved: for if it has been proved, as attempted in the last Section, that man rises from the dead, in a spiritual body, immediately on the death of the material body, and that no resurrection of the material body will ever take place, it necessarily follows, that the spiritual world, into which death introduces him, can alone be the scene of the judgment he is to experience. But, as what passes in the spiritual world cannot be known to the inhabitants of the natural world in general; if the judgment is performed there, the inhabitants of the natural world would not have any consciousness of what was passing. Hence our second proposition, that it has there been accomplished accordingly,—affirms nothing that is at all improbable in itself, and nothing which can, by any possibility, be proved to be false. In this and two subsequent parts of this section we will give further evidence in proof of our first proposition; after which we shall see, in part D., that independently of the assertions of Swedenborg, there are various considerations tending to evince, that our second, also, is certainly true.
But as great misrepresentations of our sentiments on the Last Judgment have been diligently circulated, some notice of these must be premised.
Among the arts too often resorted to by polemic writers, it has been observed that this is one. The controvertist selects some doctrine of great importance which no one ever thought of denying; he proves with great display of authorities the certainty of such doctrine; he insinuates that its truth is denied by those whose sentiments it is wished to render odious; and then, because he has clearly proved what nobody doubts, he triumphs as if he had completely defeated the object of his attack. This is the course frequently adopted by the assailants of the New Church. As if we denied the last judgment altogether, a writer introduces the subject with these remarks: "The doctrine of the Last Judgment is of high import, and is most clearly revealed in the Word of God. Nor has there ever been much controversy in the Christian world on this subject; which is a clear proof, if more than Scripture proof were wanting, that the doctrine has met with the acquiescence of all men throughout the Christian world, with the exception, now of late, of the Swedenborgians, who, I suppose, wish to be called Christians." Accordingly, to put down these wicked "Swedenborgians," a great display of texts is made in which a judgment is asserted; including some from the "Mahometan's Creed." The ancient heathens, also, are brought in to condemn us. "Many," it is gravely observed, "of the wiser heathens believed in a general judgment in some form; though their form might differ from that recorded in the Scripture, yet the thing they believed. For they could in no wise reconcile themselves to the prosperity of the vicious, and the adversity of the virtuous, which was every day before their eyes, but on the supposition of a future reckoning day, and an hereafter of rewards and punishments."* Now to what purpose is all this, when it never entered into the thoughts of one of those persons whom they call" Swedenborgians," to have any shadow of doubt about the reality of "a future reckoning day, and a hereafter of rewards and punishments?" If the heathens are to be commended, because they "believed in a general judgment in some form, though their form might differ from that recorded in the Scriptures," are we to be censured, because we believe in a general judgment in the form recorded in the Scriptures, though our form may differ from that preferred by our censurers ? And because the form of the general judgment believed in by us, and taken by us from the Scriptures, differs from that preferred by our censurers, are the heathens to be called in to condemn us, as if, worse than they, we denied both the form and the thing ? Indeed, scarcely any thing that has been advanced against us on this subject applies to our views in any degree whatever. Our doctrines affirm, that a particular judgment takes place, on every individual, at death: he then who wishes to overthrow them, ought to prove from Scripture, that no one undergoes any particular judgment after death whatever.
* Anti-Swedenborg, p. 54.
Our doctrines affirm, that the general judgment mentioned in Scripture was to take place in the spiritual world and not in the natural, and that, agreeably to divine prediction, it has there been performed accordingly; he then who would overthrow them should prove, that the general judgment was not to take place in the spiritual world, but in. the natural, and that it will not be performed till the total end and destruction of the world. None of these points has our opponent attempted to establish. All that he has advanced respecting it we fully admit, except his Mahometan proof, and his misrepresentation of our views. I will, however, notice the few sentences in which this writer makes any attempt to encounter our sentiments.
After the paragraph respecting the acknowledgment by the heathens of "a future reckoning day and a hereafter of rewards and punishments." he adds, "But I must not wrong the Swedenborgians, for they allow of a judgment; but it is a judgment on every individual soon after leaving the material body, and takes place in the spiritual world!" In connection with what had gone before, and marked as it is, by the note of exclamation, this must be intended to treat such a mode of "allowing of a judgment" as nugatory and evasive,—as if it were no judgment at all: What man, however, of sound mind but must feel, that, "a judgment on every individual soon after leaving the material body," is, to every individual, an incomparably more serious affair, than a judgment to take place many hundreds or thousands of years hence ? The gentleman proceeds: "If it be true, as some learned men say, that, in the whole world, more than sixty persons die every minute, one minute with another; then there can be no cessation to the work of judgment!" Another eloquent note of admiration, to call upon the reader to supply by his imagination the objection, which, the author saw, would appear utterly futile if plainly stated. For what can be the design of this sentence, with its note of admiration, but to hint, that the Divine Judge would find such a mode of judgment too troublesome and difficult ? The objector insinuates, that to judge of the eases of sixty persons in a minute, is too hard for Omniscience; wherefore, to simplify the matter, he would have all who died from the beginning of the world to the end of it judged at once. He goes on: "And if, according to their doctrine, the world will never be at an end, but will last for ever, then there must be an everlasting propagation of mankind." This is sad aggravation of the difficulty, indeed. If the human race is thus to continue, and the ratio of its increase goes on as at present, instead of only sixty dying in a minute, there will at length be six hundred, or six thousand; and then how can they be judged ? The mind of the objector is overwhelmed at the thought; and he apprehends that the Almighty must sink under the task, as he does under the idea. Can he really mean to suggest, that "the everlasting propagation of mankind" is too much for Infinity ? Can he in fact suppose, that Infinity can be satisfied with less ? Can he behold the countless multitudes of suns which the telescope discovers to us, each accompanied, as reason necessarily concludes, with its dependent worlds; can he admit that all these are replenished with inhabitants, and with an endless variety of natural productions, like the world in which we live; can he believe that the minutest and the greatest of all things are alike the workmanship of the Creator; and that his providence, throughout all worlds, is as universal as the Lord teaches when he says, that not a sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father, and that the very hairs of our head are all numbered ? Can his mind embrace all this, and then shrink from the congenial idea, that he who has produced and who governs these mighty works, did not create them for the sake of uncreating them again, but, as they are boundless in extent, so are they intended to be in duration, and their Creator will continue to draft off from them inhabitants for his heavenly kingdom, in continually increasing numbers, without end ? Alas, this thought seems to distress our poor friend most of all; for he adds, as something transcendently monstrous, "And then again, according to this New-Jerusalem doctrine, all mankind after death become either angels in heaven or devils in hell; wherefore, it clearly follows that this world, their doctrine being admitted, is nothing but a manufactory of angels and devils!" Most truly, it does so follow: and if the inference thus sagaciously brought out is sufficient to condemn the "New-Jerusalem doctrine," we have not a syllable to offer in extenuation. If our opponents will have it so, "this world is nothing but a manufactory of angels and devils." And pray, for what "manufactory," more worthy of its Creator than that of angels, do they think it can be designed ? (as for devils, according to our doctrine, they are not manufactured such by the Creator, but by themselves.) Do they mean to deny the fact, and affirm that mankind do not become either angels or devils ? It really is not easy to tell what they mean: further than this; that they are determined, at any rate, to contradict the doctrines of the New Jerusalem, but cannot find anything plausible to urge against them. The plain English of such objections is this,—that those sublime and heavenly doctrines make God too wise, too good, and too great.
Without further notice of such futile objections, I proceed to deliver our sentiments on the subject.
The first proposition then that I am to endeavour to establish, is, That the General Judgment announced in Scripture, as to be performed at the Second Coming of the Lord, was not to take place in the natural world, as commonly supposed, but in the spiritual.
In this part A of the present section, we will consider, chiefly, the proofs of the fact, That the Last Judgment of the Scriptures was not to be accomplished in the natural world; only deducing thence as a corollary, That the spiritual world must be the Scene of it: in the next part, more direct evidence shall be offered of this second branch of the Proposition.
That the Last Judgment of the Scriptures was not to take place in the natural world, is evident from this consideration: that the circumstances announced in prophecy as being to attend it, are such as cannot be designed to be literally understood, and, some of them, such as are impossible in the nature of things.
For what is the nature of the Last Judgment, according to the common apprehensions of it; and how is it to be performed ? I have noticed some of the supposed attendant circumstances in the preceding Section, and will now draw them out a little more at length.
We have all been told from our childhood, that angels are to appear with trumpets, the sound of which shall be so loud, as not only to rouse to a sense of the great event at hand the whole race of mankind then living upon the globe, but also to wake the dead: for then
" ——a mighty trump, one-half concealed In clouds, one-half to mortal eye revealed, Shall pour a dreadful note; the piercing call Shall rattle in the centre of the ball, The extended circuit of creation shake; The living die with fear, the dead awake."*
Or, as another authority describes it,
" Celestial guards the topmost height attend, And crowds of angels down from heaven descend; With their big cheeks the deafening clarions wind, Whose dreadful clangours startle all mankind:— Ten thousand worlds revive to better skies, And from their tombs the thronging corpses rise." +
* Young. + Amhurst's translation of Addison's celebrated Latin poem on the Alterpiece of Magdalen College, Oxford.
No matter how long since they may have lain mouldering in the dust, nor how widely their particles may have been scattered asunder; no matter into what other substances they may have passed; nor even though, by being devoured by cannibals, or by passing into the substances of vegetables and animals, and being thence again taken into the human system, they may have formed parts of human bodies many times over; no matter for these and a thousand difficulties more, all shall revive:
" And now from every corner of the earth, The scattered dust is called to second birth; Whether in mines it formed the ripening mass, Or humbly mixed and flourished in the grass, [Or holds the station that it held before, In human forms incorporate o'er and o'er] , The severed body now unites again, And kindred atoms rally into men.— Here an imperfect form returns to light, Not half renewed, dishonest to the sight; Maimed of his nose appears his blotted face, And scarce the image of a man we trace: Here, by degrees infused, the vital ray Gives the first motion to the panting clay: Slow, to new life the thawing fluids creep, And the stiff joints wake heavily from sleep." *
This description, to be sure, exposes a little of the inconveniences of the operation; however, all shall be made complete,
" ——not the least atom Embezzled or mislaid of the whole tale. Each soul shall have a body ready furnished; And each shall have his own."+
Well may the poet add,
" Ask not how this shall be."—
And well may both poet and dogmatist seek to silence inquiry with the magic word "Omnipotence." Omnipotence shall surmount all difficulties. The whole terraqueous globe, it seems, like one huge mine, is suddenly to explode, and every spot, both of earth and sea, is to shoot out a human body:
" So when famed Cadmus sowed the fruitful field, With pregnant throes the quickened furrow swell'd, From the warm soil sprung up a warlike train, And human harvests covered all the plain." #
These, however, though they appear as men complete, are as yet only men's bodies; the souls, therefore, which formerly animated them and which have been reserved in some unknown region, are to be called from their obscure and not very comfortable retreat, and united with them again:
" The body thus renewed, the conscious soul, Which has perhaps been fluttering near the pole, Or midst the burning planets wondering strayed, Or hovered o'er where her pale corpse was laid; Or rather coasted on her final state, And feared, or wished, for her appointed fate; This soul, returning with a constant flame, Now weds for ever her immortal frame." $
Amhurst's Addison. + Blair. # Amhurst's Addison. $ Young.
And notwithstanding the multitude of spirits and bodies thus seeking for each other, none shall be mismatched,
Nor shall the conscious soul Mistake its partner; but amidst the crowd,
These then are all to join those who may then be living, and forming with them an innumerable great army, are to await the decision of their lot. To complete the description:
" Ten thousand trumpets now at once advance: Now deepest silence lulls the vast expanse: So deep the silence, and so loud the blast, As Nature died when she had groaned her last. Nor man nor angel moves. The Judge on high Looks round, and with his glory fills the sky: Then on the fatal book his hand he lays, Which high to view supporting seraphs raise: In solemn form the rituals are prepared, The seal is broken, and a groan is heard.— Aloft, the seats of bliss their pomp display, Brighter than brightness, this distinguished day;— Horrors beneath, darkness in darkness, hell Of hell, where torments behind torments dwell; A furnace formidable, deep, and wide, O'erboiling with a mad sulphureous tide, Expands its jaws, most dreadful to survey, And roars outrageous for the destined prey. Such is the scene; and one short moment's space Concludes the hopes and fears of human race." +
While this is proceeding, all the elements sympathise: the world takes fire; the stars fall to the earth; and at length all creation perishes in one universal conflagration:
Reverse all Nature's web shall run,
* Blair. See a striking delineation of this monstrous idea in Cromeck's edition of Blair's "Grave" with Blake's Illustrations; in which is a print representing the Soul as a slender female darting down from the sky, and the Body as a robust male springing out of the earth, clasping each other in their arms. + Young.
When mimics them so twinkling there: And, like Narcissus, as they gain more near. For the loved image straight expire. And agonise in warm desire, Or slake their heat as in the stream they roll. Whilst the world burns, and all the orbs below In their expiring ruins glow, They sink, and unsupported leave the skies, Which fall abrupt, and tell their torment in their noise."
"This globe, alone, would but defraud the fire, Starve its devouring rage: the flakes aspire And catch the clouds, and make the heavens their prey: The sun, the moon, the stars, all melt away: All, all is lost: no monument, no sign, Where once so proudly blazed the gay machine. So bubbles on the foaming stream expire; So sparks that scatter from the kindling fire. The devastations of one dreadful hour The great Creator's six-days' work devour, +
* Pomfret. + Young.
It is thus that the Last Judgment is usually described. I have taken my delineation of it from the poets, because it is to poetry that such ideas properly appertain: I have been careful, however, not to borrow from them any circumstances of their own invention, but only such as, whether related in poetry or in prose, are generally believed to belong to the subject; and it would be easy to repeat all their statements from almost every prose-writer who has handled the theme. Of the poets, also, whom I have cited, three were clergymen, whose orthodoxy has never been disputed; and the fourth (Addison) is an author, whose authority, on such a subject, few of the clergy would reject. But who can weigh, in the balance of a cool deliberate judgment, such representations as the above, without concluding, that the facts affirmed in them are as purely poetical as the language ?— in other words, that the facts are pure figures, bearing, indeed, a distinct signification,—relating to circumstances which were infallibly to come to pass,—but the true nature of which must be totally mistaken while the figurative language in which they are described is literally understood ? The facts are all taken from the prophetic language of Scripture: they are the figures of inspired prophecy transferred into the works of uninspired writers: and who can seriously consider them, and advert to the manifold inconsistencies which the literal adherence to them includes, as unconsciously drawn out and dwelt upon by the writers of the above quotations, without acceding to the assertion of the illustrious Swedenborg, That men have formed such notions respecting the Last Judgment, merely because the genuine spiritual sense of the Holy Word has not heretofore been known, and the language in which it is written, which is that of the perpetual analogy or correspondence established by the Creator between spiritual things and natural, has not been understood.* But why abide by the letter here, when many things are affirmed in prophecy, in connection with the above, which never are literally interpreted ? No one, for instance, ever yet dreamed, that, at the time of the Last Judgment, or preparatory to it, a dragon would be seen falling from heaven, a woman in labour clothed with the sun, and a beast with seven heads and ten horns ascending out of the sea, while another with two lamb's horns rises out of the earth. as described in chs. xii. and xiii. of the Revelation: and yet it were just as reasonable to expect these phenomena then to take place, as to expect all dead carcases to leave their graves; the Divine Judge to appear visibly in the clouds, seated on a throne there placed, with books open before him; the sun and moon to be extinguished, and the stars to fall from heaven; and the earth and visible heavens, thus the whole visible universe, to be consumed with fire. The latter are all symbolical images as well as the former, and are only to be understood by the same rule of interpretation. In the spiritual world, indeed, where, as we shall see in the sequel, the natural objects that are seen are not real natural objects, but appearances of them, corresponding to the internal state and circumstances of the spirits and angels, and conveying to the minds of the beholders the ideas of which they are expressive;—in that world, such appearances as are described in the prophetic language of Scripture, are doubtless seen on the occasions in connection with which they are mentioned: but in the natural world the case is quite different; and hence the circumstances mentioned respecting the Last Judgment are not in the natural world literally to take place, and some of them are such as cannot possibly be there exhibited. It will hence follow, that it is in the spiritual world, and not in the natural, that, according to the Scriptures, the Last Judgment was to be performed. The effects of it, indeed, must, doubtless, be felt in the natural world also, and much that is described as accompanying it must have, in the natural world, a spiritual fulfilment: but it is in the spiritual world only that the judgment itself could be performed; and in the spiritual world only that any of the circumstances predicated respecting it could literally occur.
* See the masterly and profound manner in which this subject is treated by Swedenborg himself, in the first five sections of his work On the Last Judgment.
We will, however, consider the common ideas of the Last Judgment a little further. The principal circumstances expected to attend it, besides the elevation of the good into heaven and the casting of the wicked into hell, are these: 1. The resurrection of all dead bodies. 2. The appearance of the Lord in the clouds: 3. The conflagration of the world, and the whole material universe. These three things are essential to the performance of the Last Judgment in the manner commonly looked for: if then it can be proved that all, or any of them, will not take place, the error of the common idea of the Last Judgment is demonstrated, and it becomes certain that the natural world is not to be the scene of its performance.
1. The first of these circumstances, The resurrection of all dead bodies, is the great foundation, the essential basis, of the received doctrine of the Last Judgment. If the bodies of the dead be not to rise again, it is perfectly evident, that the judgment upon the deceased cannot be performed in the natural world. If then it has been proved in the last Section (as, I trust, is the fact), that there is not a single passage of Scripture which predicts any such thing as the resurrection of the body; if it has been proved that the resurrection of the Scripture is a rising in a spiritual body, into a spiritual world, immediately after death; if it has been proved that it is a mistake to understand the Scripture-phrase, "the resurrection of the dead," as if it meant the resurrection of the body, since Jesus Christ himself explains it to mean no other resurrection than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have already experienced: then, as observed above, the common mode of expecting the Last Judgment has already been proved to be unfounded. The materials of such a judgment are gone: and, to make our ideas of the subject consistent with this fact, we must transfer our expectations of the judgment to that world, into which they who are to be judged are transferred by the resurrection.
2. The second circumstance, The appearance of the Divine Judge in the clouds, is also essential to the received doctrine of the Last Judgment: for the presence, in the natural world, of the Judge, is indispensable, if the parties to be judged are there assembled. If then it has been proved in our second Section * (as, I trust, was accomplished), that such a personal coming of the Lord in the elementary clouds is a thing impossible; if it has been proved, that if we understand, from the literal sense of some prophecies, that he will make his advent in the clouds, we must understand, from the literal sense of another, that he will come riding on horseback, which idea every mind at once rejects as absurd; if it has been proved that such symbolic language is intended to announce, not his coming into this world in person, but his presence in his Word of Divine Truth, imparting to the intellectual faculties of man the power of rightly understanding it, opening the clouds of the letter, and revealing the glories of its spiritual signification: then, also, the common mode of expecting the Last Judgment has already heen proved to be founded in misconception. The means of executing such a judgment are taken away; and to make our ideas of the subject consistent with this fact, we must look for its performance in that world, where such a personal appearance of the Lord, and the symbolic representations which are described as attending it, are not only not impossible, but are perfectly agreeable to the laws of nature,—the nature, that is, of a spiritual world, and of spiritual existences.
* See above pp. 16, 17, 18. For the reasons why the nature of the Lord's Second Coming, and of the Last Judgment then to be performed, has not hitherto been understood, see also above, pp. 7—16.
In addition to the inconsistencies noticed in Section II., in the place just referred to, as attendant on the doctrine of the appearance of the Lord in the clouds to judge all who ever lived on the earth, others might easily be mentioned. Thus, if all dead bodies are to rise, they must, as observed above, be exploded from all parts of the earth and sea. But this world is in the form of a globe, and the clouds are never more than a very few miles above its surface: Hence, the remotest star can only be visible to half the globe at a time; and the highest cloud can never be seen from more than a very small segment of the convex earth. In what part of the clouds, then, is the Judge to appear, so as to be visible to all the inhabitants of the globe, previously living, and resurrected, at once ? Where, also, is the tribunal to be placed, so as to be above all those who are to be judged ? What is above to us, is below to the New Zealanders; and all the inhabitants of the globe have in like manner their antipodes. If then all are to be judged together, instead of rising, the great majority must fall to the place. Is a notion like that of the rabbins to be adopted, when they affirm, that, let a Jew die where he will, he will return to life in the land of Canaan, his remains making their way thither by rolling and wriggling through certain passages provided for the purpose in the bowels of the earth ? These and similar inconsistencies seem alone sufficient to convince any one who reflects on them, that the natural world was not to be the scene of the Last Judgment.
The Lord's making his Second Coming, in a spiritual manner, among the inhabitants of this world, by restoring the right apprehension of his Divine Truth, together with the life of it, and thus effecting the renovation of his church universal among men, according to the view offered in Section II., is a consequence of his accomplishing the Last Judgment in the spiritual world; and this also he accomplishes by means of his Divine Truth,—by pouring forth the influences of his Spirit of Truth in such a manner as the wicked cannot bear. Hence, as it is more particularly in his character as the Divine Truth Itself that the Lord executes judgment, he is always called, on that occasion, the Son of man;—as when he says, that the Father "hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John v. 27); for, as is mentioned above, p. 19, and is shown at large in my work on "the Plenary Inspiration of the scriptures," the Son of man is a title assumed by the Lord in reference to his character as the Divine Truth: and that it is to his Word, which is the same thing as the Divine Truth, that judgment belongs, he himself teaches when he says, "If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John xii. 47, 48). Hence we see the harmony between the spiritual fulfilment of the predictions relating to his Second Coming to the inhabitants of this world, and the spiritual conjoined (in some respects) with the literal fulfilment of the same to the inhabitants of the spiritual world. That which is manifested is, in both worlds, the Divine Truth: but in the spiritual world the Divine Truth appears in person, for the performance of the judgment; and in the natural world the Divine Truth is revealed in the Word for the restoration of the church. These two things we understand to form a one, as do the sun and its light: for the inmost essence of the Divine Truth in the Word, and thus of the Word itself even in its literal sense, is the Divine Truth in person, that is, the Lord Himself; just as the sun is the inmost essence of all the light of day; and thus plenarily, it is, according to our ideas, that the written Word is divinely inspired. Now any one may conceive that the Divine Truth in person can only be visible to the sight of angels and spirits, and not to the natural sight of men; though men may receive in their understandings some apprehension of the Divine Truth contained in the Word, of which the Divine Truth in person is the only Source.
According to this view it will be seen, that although our doctrines deny the possibility of the Lord's visible appearance, in his Glorified Person, to men on earth, they by no means deny that his visible appearance would attend the performance of the Last Judgment. It is this appearance which is spoken of in Acts i. 10, 11; which passage at once teaches, what it is often cited to prove, that at the Lord's coming to judgment he would visibly appear, and, what is as generally overlooked, that his appearance would not be visible to the inhabitants of the world in general. After relating the Lord's ascension in the presence of the apostles, and saying that "a cloud received him out of their sight," it is added, "And while they looked steadfastly towards heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Te men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven ? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Now if the coming of the Lord to judgment is to be in like manner as his ascension, it cannot be visible to the inhabitants of the natural world; for none of the inhabitants of the natural world beheld his ascension, except the eleven apostles; and these did not see it with the eye of their body, but by that of their spirit; in the manner that, according to what was shown above, the ascension. of Elijah was seen by Elisha; hence, as Elisha beheld, together with his ascending master, a chariot and horses of fire, so did the apostles,. when viewing the ascension of their Lord, behold also two angels; just as, at his transfiguration, they had seen with him Moses and Elias; all which were spiritual beings and existences, that could not possibly be beholden with the eyes of the body. "In like manner," then, the coming of the Lord in person to judgment, could not be seen by any inhabitant of the earth, unless the eyes of his spirit were miraculously opened for that purpose: thus the declaration that he should "so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," can only relate, in its literal sense, to his appearance to the inhabitants of the spiritual world: and thus it was them only that he was to come again to judge. For the distinct apprehension of this, it may be necessary to add, that the Lord, when his Humanity was fully glorified, ascended above all the heavens, into the highest or inmost of all things; that the scene of the judgment, as will be seen presently, is an intermediate region of the spiritual world, between heaven and hell, appropriated to the first reception of departed spirits; and that the judgment is effected by his exhibiting himself present, in a peculiar manner, in the lowest parts of heaven; in doing which he is said to descend, though he is not the less present in his supreme residence than before. For space in the spiritual world, which is not formed of matter, is not fixed, but is an appearance depending upon the states of those who are there: and in no degree can space limit the presence of the Omnipresent God.
Again then, I trust, it is evident, that the Lord's coming in the clouds, to the inhabitants of the natural world, is only possible in a spiritual manner; and that in the spiritual world only could the appearance of his doing so literally take place; consequently, that it was in the spiritual world, and not in the natural, that the Last, Judgment was to be performed.
3. The third circumstance, The conflagration of the world and the whole material universe, belongs, in itself, less essentially than the two former, to the performance of the Last Judgment in the natural world; yet it is equally necessary to the received doctrine on the subject; because the received doctrine is drawn from the prophetic language of Scripture taken in its literal sense only; and, in the literal sense of those prophecies, the passing away of heaven and earth, the burning of the day of the Lord as an oven, the extinction of the sun and moon and the falling from heaven of the stars, are repeatedly announced. But if it has been proved (as was likewise, I trust, accomplished) in our second Section, that by these phrases, accompanied also, as they frequently are, by the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, is constantly meant the dissolution or termination of one dispensation and the founding of a new one,—or "the putting of an entire end to one order of things, and the commencement of a new one, either with respect to particular or to general churches;" if it has been proved that some of the occasions in regard to which such convulsions of nature are announced, have undeniably passed by, without any such outward catastrophe resulting; if it has thus been proved that the destruction of the world and the material universe cannot, with any degree of probability, be inferred from the use of such images in the prophetic style of Scripture: then, again, has it already been proved to be at least in the highest degree probable, that the common mode of expecting the Last Judgment is altogether erroneous. The expected consequences of such a judgment will not, we see, ensue: the world will not, so far as can be gathered from the Scripture, "be consumed; still less will the whole visible creation,—the countless stars, which we know to be other suns, each the centre to a system of earths,—be hurled into ruin, (monstrous idea!) to punish the iniquity of this little globe. Yet such must be the fact, if the judgment is to be performed, as expected, within the precincts of nature.
We have seen above,+ that one of the sagacious refuters of our views is quite appalled at the idea of the endless duration of the world, and its shocking consequence, that "there must be an everlasting propagation of mankind." Few besides, I apprehend, will think the idea shocking, but most, on the contrary, must regard it as grand and glorious; yet many, perhaps, may feel surprised at its novelty; for the belief that the world is to be destroyed is one of the earliest prejudices with which the mind is imbued; and few ever think of afterwards calling it under the scrutiny of maturer judgment. Yet the future perpetual duration of the world appears to admit of proof from reason and Scripture, that falls little short of demonstration.
It has been shown above, that the passages of Scripture which seem to speak of the destruction of the world cannot have any such signification; and that this is now, with respect to most of them, admitted by the learned in general. But the single circumstance, that the destruction of the world should be attended, as affirmed in most of the prophecies which appear to speak of it, with the falling of the stars from heaven, seems alone sufficient to convince the reader, that the dissolution of nature is not the thing intended. This idea evidently treats the stars as if they were in reality, what they appear to the unassisted senses, mere subordinate appendages to this globe of ours, performing no other use in the creation than that which they perform to us. The Scriptures assume this idea, not for the purpose of affirming it to be the fact, but because this affords a sufficient basis for that spiritual instruction which alone the Scriptures have for their object; and because, when they mention the stars, the stars of the firmament are never really meant: but when we rise from the seeming to the real nature of the stars of the firmament, we clearly see that it cannot be of them that the Scripture speaks, when it says, the stars shall fall from heaven. They cannot fall from heaven but by coming down to the earth, as described in the verses cited above from Pomfret, Any other mode of falling might as well be called rising, since it would only be a motion from one part of the visible heavens to another, which, if it caused them to set to one hemisphere of the globe, would cause them to rise to the opposite hemisphere: accordingly, that they are to fall to the ground, is the idea always attached to the expression by the simple, according to whose ideas of natural things the Word of God, in its letter, is uniformly written. While the world was believed to be the largest body in the universe, round which, as their centre, the sun and all the stars moved, the practicability of such a falling of the heavenly bodies might easily be imagined. But since the advancement of science has dispelled this illusion; since it is known that the earth is but a mere speck in comparison with the sun, whilst the millions of stars which the telescope discovers are other suns, all thousands of times larger than the earth; it becomes impossible to imagine for a moment, that these enormous bodies can ever come tumbling from the sky, and drop upon the surface of this atom of a globe. Certainly, then, it is impossible, when the Scripture speaks of the falling of the stars, that the stars of the firmament can be intended: consequently, the mention of such convulsions cannot be intended to affirm the destruction of the world and the universe.
The common reader of the Scriptures takes his expectation of the world's coming to an end, in great part, from the disciples' request of the Lord, "Tell us when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" (Matt. xxiv. 3.) The word, however, here translated "the world," is literally "the age," and is a term applied to express the whole continuance of any order of things. But the Lord, in his answer, uses expressions which decidedly demonstrate, that his coming to judgment was not to be accompanied with the end of the world, but that, after the judgment, the world was to remain as stable as ever, and replenished with inhabitants. For he says, to illustrate the discrimination which would be used in the execution of the judgment, "Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." (Ver. 40, 41.) But if the world were to perish under their feet, how could any be left ? When he speaks of some who, after the judgment, should be left in the world; and left too, it would appear, at their usual occupations; how can it be supposed that the world is to be destroyed ? How unmeaning would it be to speak of persons being left, labouring in the field or grinding at the mill, if the world, with all its mills and fields, were to be sunk in annihilation! Nor can this proof be evaded by saying, that it only relates to those who were captured or who escaped at the siege of Jerusalem: for though some parts of the prophecy had an imperfect and typical fulfilment at the siege of Jerusalem, it is fully evident, and is generally acknowledged, that its main and final reference is to the Second Coming of the Lord and the Last Judgment: if then some of the things which had a typical fulfilment at the siege of Jerusalem were to have their final fulfilment at the time of the Last Judgment, how arbitrary and palpably forced is the interpretation, which would limit others of the same series of circumstances to the siege of Jerusalem only!
But that the biblical texts which seem to speak of the destruction of the world cannot mean any such thing, is also evident from this circumstance: that there are many others which affirm the direct contrary. Some of these I will here subjoin, with remarks.
" 'One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever' (Eccl. i. 4). 'He that buildeth his sanctuary like high places, like the earth which he hath established for ever' (Ps. lxxviii. 69). 'Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David: his seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me; it shall be established for ever as the moon' (Ps. lxxxix. 35, 36, 37). 'Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever' (Ps. civ. 5). 'They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever' (Ps. cxxv. 1). And in Ps. cxlviii., after calling on all created things, and the sun and moon among the rest, to praise the Lord, the inspired writer adds (ver. 6), 'He hath also established them for ever and ever; he hath made a decree which cannot pass.'—The eternal duration of the world is as expressly asserted in these passages, as its destruction is in any others: thus the Scripture, in its literal sense, proves both sides of the question; consequently, it does not prove either. One of the classes of passages must be intended to be understood otherwise than the letter expresses; which, must be decided by other considerations. "We are at liberty therefore either to believe one proposition or the other, as appears most consonant to reason.
* From an article furnished by me, many years ago, to "The Intellectual Repository for the New Church," vol. i. (first series) p. 414, &c.
"The reasons then which induce me to believe that the world will not be destroyed, but will continue to supply new inhabitants to the eternal world for ever, are principally derived from considering the true nature and attributes of the Lord our God. The very essence of the Creator is pure Divine Love.(1 John iv. 8, 16.) What was the cause from which we were created ? Divine Love. What was the cause from which we were redeemed ? Divine Love. When from his Divine Love the Lord created the universe, the end he proposed was, the production of a race of rational beings capable of enjoying his divine mercies, out oŁ whom he might form an angelic heaven, in the midst of which he might himself eternally reside, and communicate an eternally increasing felicity to an eternally increasing multitude of free recipient spirits: nor docs the perdition of a part, by their own fault, afford any argument against the design. If then these were the ends intended by our Omnipotent Maker in the creation of the world, what sort of ends could he intend in its destruction ? None but such as are as opposite to Divine Love, as destruction is opposite to creation, as death is opposite to life. To commence destroyer,—to become Apollyon,—he must change his nature, and cease to be Jehovah. He must cease to take pleasure in seeing happy subjects added to his kingdom. The streams of his goodness must suddenly stop in their course. His life-giving energies must suddenly be exhausted. He must cease to be infinite in power,—he must cease to be infinite in love. Judge then which sentiment does most honour to God; that which represents him as a fickle destroyer, or that which regards him as an immutable preserver. A case may indeed be imagined, in which the world would inevitably perish, without the catastrophe being at all imputable to the divine will or agency: but this could only happen by the total extinction of all remains of a church, and the extirpation of every principle of goodness from the hearts of men; which rendering it impossible for the heavenly influences to find admission any longer, and wholly intercepting the connexion between the creature and the life-giving Creator, would cause the polluted race to sink in death, and the orb they inhabited to fall to nothing. But though, so long as man continues to enjoy free-will and to be able to abuse it, such a catastrophe must be admitted to be possible, yet it never can be probable, so long as all the energies of Providence are on the alert to prevent its occurrence: and, if we may give credit to the Divine Foreknowledge, we may rest assured that, in this globe, it will never take place; much less, in the whole visible universe. For it is abundantly declared in the Word, that a glorious church shall here be finally raised up, which shall never come to an end: consequently, the globe which is to afford to this church its ultimate seat and basis, must be of equal duration.—'In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not he left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.' " *
To this popular statement of arguments against the expected destruction of the world, I will add an extract from Swedenborg, in which he opens the deep philosophical grounds of the necessity for the world's continuance in existence, in so clear a manner, as must, I should think, to every one who loves to look beyond the mere surface of things, afford both conviction and delight. To prove that the procreations of the human race will never cease, he lays down and illustrates these six propositions. "I. That the human race is the basis upon which heaven is founded. II. That the human race is the seminary of heaven. III. That the extent of heaven designed for angels is so immense, that it cannot be filled to eternity. IV. That they of whom heaven consists, are, as yet, respectively, but few. V. That the perfection of heaven increases according to the number of its inhabitants. VI. That every divine work has respect to what is infinite and eternal." —In illustrating the first proposition he makes these remarks:—
"That the human race is the basis upon which heaven is founded,, follows from this circumstance: that man was the last object created; and that which is created last, is the basis of all that precede it. Creation began from things supreme or inmost, because from the Divine Being, and proceeded to things ultimate or extreme, and then it first came into subsistence. The ultimate, that is, the last or lowest part of the creation, is the natural universe, in which is the terraqueous globe with all its contents. When these works were produced, then man was created, and into him were collated all things, of Divine Order from first to last; into his inmost parts were collated those things which are in the first principles of that order, and into his last or ultimate parts those which are in the last or ultimate principles of that order. Thus man was made divine order in a substantial form. Hence all things that are in or with man, are either from heaven or from the world; from heaven are all things belonging to his mind, and from the world all things belonging to his body: for the things of heaven flow into his thoughts and affections, and produce them, according as themselves are received by his spirit; and the things of the world flow into his sensations and corporeal pleasures, and produce them, according as themselves are received by his body, but in an accommodated manner, according to their agreement with the thoughts and affections of his spirit.—Such being the order of creation, it may be evident, that there is such an inseparable connexion of all things belonging to that order, from the first to the last, that, viewed together, they constitute a one, in which that which is prior cannot be separated from that which is posterior, as the cause cannot be separated from its effect: consequently, the spiritual world cannot be separated from the natural world, nor this from that; and thus the angelic heaven cannot be separated from the human race, nor the human race from the angelic heaven; wherefore it is provided by the Lord, that they should be mutually useful to each other, the angelic heaven to the human race, and the human race to the angelic heaven. Hence the angelic abodes are indeed in heaven, separate, as to sight, from the abodes of men, but still they are with man, in his affections of goodness and truth." This the author confirms by several texts of Scripture, and by various remarks; after which he proceeds to say, "Hence it is evident, that there is such a connexion between the angelic heaven and the human race, that the one subsists from the other; aud that the angelic heaven without the human race would be in the situation of a house without a foundation, for heaven terminates in the human race, and reposes on it. The case in this respect resembles that of a man individually: his spiritual things, which are those of his thought and will, flow into his natural things, which are those of his sensations and actions, and there terminate and subsist. Did not man possess the latter also; or were he destitute of these bounds or ultimates, his spiritual things, which are those of the thoughts or affections of his spirit, would now off, as things without a termination or without a bottom. The case is similar when man passes out of the natural world into the spiritual, which takes place when he dies: being then a spirit, he no longer subsists upon his own individual basis, but upon the common basis, which is the human race.—Hence it may appear, that the human race and the angelic heaven form a one, and owe their subsistence, mutually and reciprocally, to each other; wherefore the one cannot be taken away from the other." (Last Judgment. n. 9.)
I know not how the above extract may recommend itself to the reader; but to me it appears to contain more solid knowledge respecting the nature of man and the economy of the universe than is to be found in any other writer; and to be quite irrefutable. If so, the notion of the conflagration of the world and of the universe must be utterly chimerical; as also, I think, appears conclusively from our preceding observations.
Thus, the accompaniments expected to attend the Last Judgment, if performed in the natural world, all utterly failing, again are we driven out of nature to look for it, and compelled to acknowledge, that the destined scene of its performance was not the natural but the spiritual world.